Best Picks / Reviewed
Best-in-class: Makita UC4051A 16″ Electric Chain Saw Review
This time-tested and user-approved electric chainsaw by Makita is reliable, easy to use, powerful, and packed with everything you need for a top-notch electric chainsaw experience. The comfort of its handles is unbeatable (they’re ergonomically designed), and the 16-inch (40 cm) bar provides the versatility you need to tackle a wide range of projects.
The Makita offers a range of enticing features, including tool-less blade and chain adjustment and a rare smooth-start feature that keeps your chainsaw from jolting to life (and catching you off guard). Its safety features are second-to-none for ultimate peace of mind: it has a current limiter that recognizes when the saw is overloaded and makes adjustments to the power flow accordingly.
Overall, the Makita is made of high-quality materials by a reliable name that stands behind its products. While the cord can be cumbersome, it completely eliminates wait-time during battery charges, and this model offers everything from chain breaks to balancing spikes and quick, fast cuts.
The Makita UC4051A might make you turn your nose up at the gas chainsaws of the past. It’s the powerful electric chainsaw you would expect in a high-end product that’s worth every penny.
- The tool-less blade and chain adjustment knobs provide superior peace of mind.
- The bucking spikes are some of the best you’ll find for stability and control.
- An automatic oiler saves you time and frustration and reduces the risk of damage.
- The convenient oil viewing window reduces mid-cut shutdowns.
- The corded design could feel limiting to some.
Best value: Black & Decker LCS1240 12″ Chainsaw Review
Sure, you can’t have everything in one tool…but the Black & Decker LCS1240 gets you pretty close. This high-value, reliable machine is a cordless, battery-operated, and comparatively lightweight saw with features usually only seen in higher-end models.
The battery offers a workable hour or more of run time, and the helpful battery life indicator makes planning the rest of your cutting tasks a breeze. The Black & Decker’s 12-inch (30 cm) guide bar is great for projects ranging up to small-sized tree work. It’s easy and comfortable to maneuver, and is designed with safety in mind: we’re fans of the low-kickback bar design and tool-free chain tensioning system in particular.
Speaking of safety, its chain and guide bar are specifically designed to minimize vibration, a feature that’s also an absolute must for efficient cuts. The Black & Decker LCS1240 sits at a comfortable mid-range price point with all the must-haves for a great product and many of the niceties of higher-priced items, making it one of the best electric chainsaws around.
- Its handy auto oiling system eliminates time-consuming hand oiling work between cuts.
- The tool-free tensioning system proves a great time-saver (and tool-saver).
- You’ll enjoy a convenient wrap-around handle for a variety of cutting positions.
- It’s comparatively lightweight, which makes it ideal for extended use.
- As a battery-operated machine, it does need to be charged frequently, so you’ll want to have multiple batteries on-hand for heavy use.
Also great: GreenWorks 20312 G-MAX 16-Inch Cordless Chainsaw Review
Of course, sometimes there’s more than one winner. While GreenWorks is a lesser-known player on the market, they’re still a force to be reckoned with in the electric chainsaw market. And the 201312 G-MAX is proof. Over an hour in potential battery life, a supremely quiet cut, and versatile cordless operation make this an excellent value electric chainsaw.
It’s designed for low-vibration operation, like the Black & Decker, and includes safety features like a low-kickback chain to keep you safe while you work. Its guide bar is a little longer at 16 inches (40 cm), the perfect length to work on everything from limb-trimming to medium-sized trees.
So why is it only the runner up? On average, it’s more expensive than the Black & Decker, and it seems they have a tendency for quirks like variations in battery life and chain slippage. Still, with a full range of safety features, top-notch comfort of operation, and high-quality cuts, the GreenWorks electric chainsaw is one of the best chainsaws on the market.
- The saw includes a chain break and low kickback chain for increased safety.
- Bucking spikes are a boon for easy, stable pivoting mid-cut.
- The automatic oiler system saves you time and frustration.
- We love that the tool-free tensioner eliminates guesswork.
- The battery reliability could stand a little more refinement.
Budget choice: WORX WG303.1 16″ Electric Chainsaw Review
Not a heavy duty saw user or happy to stay close to home with your saw? If so, a budget electric chainsaw might be all you need. The WORX WG303.1 is small but mighty, with close to maximum amperage and a versatile 16-inch (40 cm) guide bar that can handle a range of DIY projects.
You won’t be going deep into the woods with this model—it’s corded—but that does allow you to scrap the worry of losing power mid-project. The WORX isn’t fancy, but it provides just about everything that our best-value and runner-up picks do in a lightweight, corded, budget-friendly package.
It’s comfortable, quiet, and equipped with a kickback reduction system. It’s also got a few niceties, like a viewing window for the oil reservoir that lets you know when it’s time for a top-up. It’s also got an ergonomic wrap-around handle that serves to keep you comfortable and increase ease of use.
Overall, this simple and wallet-friendly machine does everything you need with a lot of what you want, making it an excellent budget electric chainsaw for light-duty projects.
- The WORX has an excellent built-in chain break to keep you safe in the event of kickback.
- Auto chain lubrication saves you time in between cuts.
- The automatic chain tensioner is a huge plus—it helps keep the chain tight without user adjustment.
- WORX doesn’t sell many replacement parts, so there’s little room for repair if something goes awry.
- We wish the automatic chain tensioner knob were a little more secure—it does have the potential to slip occasionally.
2. Why buy an electric chainsaw?
Previously, you may have seen only gas chainsaws on the market. There’s nothing wrong with a gas-powered chainsaw, but modern electric chainsaws are full of extra perks.
Electric vs. gas chainsaws
- Electric saws are far quieter.
- They save you money on gasoline.
- They tend to require less money (and time) in maintenance.
- They’re easier to start (if you’ve ever yanked fruitlessly on the pull-start of a gas chainsaw, you know what we mean).
Electric chainsaws are a more cost-effective, versatile option for many people who work with trees. However, there are a myriad of options on the market with a range of prices, features, and capabilities. You’ll need to compare factors like guide bar size, power, and corded vs. cordless design to make an educated decision on the best electric chainsaw for you.
3. Corded vs. cordless electric chainsaws
The first question to ask yourself is whether a corded or cordless model is a better fit for you. Each one comes with its own benefits and drawbacks.
Corded electric chainsaws
Chainsaws with a power cord are almost always less expensive. They also tend to be lightweight, which is great for high-up jobs and extended projects.
The downside? It goes without saying that they keep you tied to your outlet, so jobs far away from the house may also require several extension cords.
Cordless electric chainsaws
Cordless saws, predictably, run on battery power. That means no cord leash keeping you close to the house (an uncontested plus), but it also means they come with a higher price tag.
However, they do need to be charged pretty frequently (charges can last as little as 20 minutes), and they can be less powerful than their corded counterparts.
4. The right chainsaw bar length
Your guide bar is the log-shaped protrusion that houses your chain. Its length is measured from tip to motor housing, and will generally range between 6 and 32 inches (15 to 81 cm).
The length of your guide bar corresponds directly to the length of wood you can cut in one pass. Of course, if you have a 6-inch (15 cm) guide bar, you can still cut a 12-inch piece of wood—you’ll just need two or more passes to do so.
The projects you’re most likely to tackle will determine the guide bar length you need. If you’ll mostly be handling 10-inch pieces of wood, a guide bar that’s 14 inches (35 cm) in length or shorter will suit you just fine. That’s true even if you might want to tackle the occasional tree—don’t invest in an unwieldy machine for “what-ifs”. A smaller machine is perfectly capable of cutting larger pieces with a little patience.
However, if you have a forest of tear-down trees on your to-do list, you’re better off going with a large guide bar that can handle anything you throw at it.
Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. Use the chart below as a rough guide to determining the right guide bar length for you.
|The task at hand||Correct guide bar length|
Small trim jobs
14’’ (35 cm) or under
12-14’’ (30-35 cm)
Cutting down a small tree
12-14’’ (30-35 cm)
Cutting down a medium tree
16-20’’ (40-60 cm)
16’’ (40 cm)
5. Chainsaw power or speed
However, chainsaw choice can’t be chalked up to guide bar size alone. The best electric chainsaw for you will also depend on how much power it packs. Now, guide bar length and power (in amperage or volts) are loosely related—in other words, chainsaws with a larger guide bar tend to pack more power, too.
It’s important to note that, although your chainsaw power will be advertised in amps or volts, those two measurements do not directly correlate to power; however, higher voltage in batteries and higher amperage in corded products does generally denote more power in a machine.
Small jobs generally require less power. So, for trimming and pruning, less power will suit you fine. But, if you’re cutting a small to medium-sized tree, you’ll need a large (and powerful) electric chainsaw.
Keep in mind that corded electric chainsaws are limited in and of themselves because they can only pack as much amperage as your electrical socket can accept—in most cases, 15 amps. So, for jumbo jobs (old trees), you’ll absolutely need a gas-powered chainsaw.
Remember that more power tends to mean a larger machine, which makes for a more cumbersome cutting experience. Getting only as much power as you need will contribute to a safer and easier chainsaw experience.
6. Rear vs. top handles on electric chainsaws
Of course, comfort matters in your chainsaw, too. The differences between these two types of electric chainsaws are simple but drastic.
- Rear-handled chainsaws are used for cutting on the ground—we’re talking logs and other pre-cut products, as well as cuts you make in live trees from earth.
- Top-handle chainsaws are really only for the pros. They’re the kind you need if you’re cutting while standing in, or suspended from, a tree. Don’t use them unless you’ve received the proper training.
7. Electric chainsaw safety features
Unlike most power tools, the cutting mechanism (chain) on chainsaws must be completely exposed to do its job, so chainsaws have earned a reputation as the most dangerous power tool on the market. Luckily, modern electric chainsaws are equipped with a range of safety features to minimize the risk of injury.
Useful safety features found on chainsaws:
- Anti-vibration: This one is an absolute must-have…period. Low vibration means greater safety and accuracy.
- Kickback reduction: If you’re a first-time chainsaw buyer, you may not know that kickback (or a sudden jolting of the jigsaw) is the cause of thousands of injuries every year. Features like extra chain links help reduce the likelihood of kickback.
- Chain brake: This stops the chain from moving in the case of kickback, further reducing the chances of injury. Some models let you activate this feature manually, too.
- Chain catcher: This keeps the chain from flying toward you (and hurting you) if it comes off the guide bar.
- Trigger lockout: This feature keeps you safe with an additional “verification” feature. You have to press a button before the power trigger will work, which reduces the chance of it engaging by accident.
Features like these are essential for novices, but they’re useful in maximizing safety across all levels of chainsaw experience.
8. Additional chainsaw features
Sometimes, a machine is more than just the sum of its parts. And that’s definitely true for chainsaws. The “extra” features many of the best electric chainsaws include can really make or break your success as a saw operator.
- Automatic chain oiler: Normally, chains need to be oiled to prevent wear and keep users safe. This oils the chain as you go so you don’t have to stop working periodically to do so.
- Spikes: These are near the motor-end of the bar and plunge into your log or workpiece to keep your saw stable while you pivot the bar. We like metal ones better than plastic ones because they’re sharper and firmer.
- Tool-free chain adjuster: If you’ve used a chain saw, you know that manually adding or removing tension from the chain with tools can be a headache. A tool-free adjuster usually comes in an easy-to-turn knob.
- A case: This is a no-brainer for many items, but it’s particularly useful for sharp tools. A case will protect your saw from damage and keep you from injuring yourself with it during transport.
9. Buying tips
Your intended application and required level of versatility will help determine the best electric chainsaw for your needs. But there are a few crucial features that make even a budget chainsaw worthwhile, as well as some bonus features that set a chainsaw apart from the pack and some top-notch features that earn them a spot as industry leaders.
Must-have features for a budget electric chainsaw
- A guide bar around 12’’ (30 cm) is perfect for small trim jobs and mid-sized branches.
- Choose a corded jigsaw to save a few bucks for close-to-home jobs.
- Be on the lookout for a model with kickback reduction for increased safety.
- Low-vibration models are a must for safety and the success of your project.
Good to have features in a great value chainsaw
- Go for a guide bar around 16’’ (40 cm) if you want to cut everything from logs to limbs.
- Aim for a cordless model—a few extra dollars earns you endless freedom.
- Features like chain breaks and chain catchers add an extra layer of safety.
Great-to-have features for the best chainsaws on the market
- Automatic chain oilers will save you countless hours of labor.
- Remove a trying step of the maintenance process with tool-free chain adjustment.
- For untethered versatility, splurge on a 20’’ (50 cm)+ guide bar (if you can carry it comfortably).